For millennials, jobs in the highest reaches of tech are among the most coveted. For Latino millennials, they sometimes seem unobtainable.
The numbers don't lie. At Google, Twitter, and Facebook, Latino employees make up between 2 percent and 3 percent of their respective workforce. These abysmal numbers are standard also throughout Silicon Valley, where overall only 3 percent of workers are Latino.
However, while few and far between, there are Latinos with dream jobs at top tech companies and in government. We reached out to Latinos at Twitter, Facebook, Google, MemSQL, and government agencies to find out what lessons aspiring Latinos can learn from their experiences.
We asked them a simple question: What advice can you offer Latinos who aspire to work at the top of the tech industry?
1. Tim Campos, Chief Information Officer @ Facebook
Build out your network. Latinos in general value family and community — this part of our heritage is one of our strengths. As such, it is valuable to get to know others, both to learn and to teach; both to seek and to provide opportunity. Networking is about building strong relationships between you and others and involves an exchange of ideas, not just getting to know someone. Build your network, because the world is becoming more connected and you never know where your connections will take you.
2. Denise Hernandez, Diversity Programs Specialist @ Facebook
My grandparents worked in the fields of Northern California and marched alongside Cesar Chavez. Through their example I learned the value of having goals, being relentless and never settling. A little bit of confidence combined with a strong belief in Facebook’s mission to make the world more open and connected is what landed me here. If I can do it, so can you. Sí se puede!
3. Delfina Eberly, Vice President of Infrastructure @ Facebook
Opportunities in technology are everywhere — especially in California. There is a great need for Latinos in the technology industry and we are one of the most underrepresented groups in tech. Don’t let yourself be defined by the low expectations of others. Do not assume technology is not attainable or that it is not a place for you. There are many different roles within the technology industry. Not everyone has to write code. There are many different careers in technology; everything from mechanical to electrical engineering; from network engineers to hardware designers. Stay in school. Find the field that most interests you on tech. Equally as important is to be yourself. Your background, the challenges your families have faced and overcome are not negatives — they are positives. These challenges define you and they give you strength and resilience to push ahead.
4. Monica Quiroz, Community Manager @ Twitter
Go for it! Don't ever think that your ethnicity can stop you from achieving a dream job. Don't be afraid to apply to a big or famous company, just prepare for the position and put your best foot forward. Also, be nice to everyone and help others whenever you can. You may need help in the future too.
5. Miguel Rios, Data Visualization Manager @ Twitter
Besides working hard, you need to stand out by offering unique, emerging skills (e.g.: learn functional programming or how to analyze large datasets). Seek and join networks of folks like you. Organizations like CODE2040 and Codetrotters are helping underrepresented minorities succeed in the tech industry. Ask them for help. Finally, when you have made it, don't forget all it took to get where you are and give back to others as much as you can.
6. Jennifer Bernal, Government Affairs @ Google
Be audacious. Reach for opportunities and missions that speak to you — you can excel at something even if you’ve never tried it before!
7. Jesus Garcia, Global Communications @ Google
Dare to dream! Dreams, passion and determination are the fuel for achievement — if you fail, try again and don’t give up, every try counts.
8. Miguel Alvarez, Software Engineer @ Google
Follow your passion and don't be afraid of failing, be excited. Failure is just part of the process to succeed. Aim very high and start now.
9. Carlos Bueno, Product Manager, MemSQL
Stay in school! :D You may not be going to a top computer science program, but then again, neither are most people. At least with a degree you can avoid several unnecessary hurdles.
Intern intern intern. There are tons of companies in the Valley that pay college students quite good salaries to come work for them over the summer. It gives you experience, contacts, cash, and a chance to see what it's really like. Don't wait for them to come to you. Reach out!
Learn a skill that you can combine with computers to make you more unique. For me it was writing and speaking. For you it could be biology. The future of programming is not generalist programmers like me. We'll still be around, but we no longer have the initiative. The future of programming is in people with hybrid skills. It's the biologist who knows machine learning (bioinformatics), or the journalist who knows datamining, like Nate Silver.
10. Serena Villalba, Digital Manager @ Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Technology is the vehicle, not the solution. Remember that those of us in the tech field are here to solve problems. The power is in how technology can be leveraged to solve the real needs of consumers across all issues. Also, stay committed to the issues that drive you. I am amazed at how I never tire of talking about consumer protection, and that shows in the innovative ways we aim to serve all those living in the U.S.
Pablo Manriquez works in Washington, D.C. He tweets at @vato.